Getting sober and uncovering anxiety (Guest Post)

pencil drawing of messy mind

This guest post comes from Claire Hatwell, sober hero and author of the book My Not So Secret Recovery.

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Claire: Sometimes I find myself looking back at how much my life has changed in the last few years and when I do, I never fail to be surprised. To a lot of people, learning how to live without alcohol can be a fairly simple thing. For me, it wasn't.

Getting sober was tricky, mostly because I expected the hard part to be giving up the wine, while actually, the hardest part for me was learning to live with the anxiety the alcohol had been hiding. I felt a bit cheated, everywhere I looked other sober ladies were saying how amazing they felt, and I just didn’t.

Like many, I didn’t fit into a box with a tidy description. Being dependent on wine, and lots of it, was one of the things that defined me, but it wasn’t the only thing, I was also a mother, a wife, I had a good job… The one thing I struggled with was moderating the amount I drank. I was unaware at the time that my drinking was masking a host of anxiety issues that needed to be dealt with.

I suppose in a lot of ways, I expected to be ‘fixed’ once I kicked the wine, but instead it uncovered the depths of my anxiety, leaving me feeling my moods were wildly unpredictable. Before I stopped drinking, I was anxious a lot of the time, but I managed. Without the wine in my system, I would have massive panic attacks that came out of the blue and happened for no apparent reason. It was scary and I hated them being so unexpected, they literally floored me.

I worried about simple things, like going out on my own, what people thought about me, or that I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t relax at all, and I felt on edge all the time. It was hard work, and I was exhausted.

I read a huge amount of ‘quit-lit’ in that time, and I felt a great deal of reassurance knowing that other people had been where I was, and that they’d got through it. Seeing others finding their way to a great life, without alcohol, was a huge incentive for me, and it made me want to keep going.

I started meditating, doing yoga and before long I took up running. I’d never been sporty, so it was strange, but I found it was a way to channel my mind when I began to overthink. I also started writing, not for others, and for no other reason than to express down my feelings, but I found it therapeutic, and without realising, began to unpick a lot of the things that were going on in my mind. It was almost like once I had written them down, I could let them go.

Before I quit drinking, I couldn’t imagine what a life without wine would be like. My addiction had crept up on me; like many people, I drank to relax after a hard day, or as a reward after a good day, a celebration, a commiseration, or the sun was shining. I could find an excuse to drink every day. It crept up until one glass wasn’t enough, and then a bottle wasn’t, and then I needed two or three. That’s a lot to drink every night by yourself, but my denial kept me going because I just about held on to every other area of my life.

I managed, but inside, I was falling apart.

If I was to do it all again, (which I won’t), I’d say to be prepared. It was a bumpy road, but then learning how to live without something I’d depended on is realistically going to be hard. The thing is, and this is the most important thing; now, with hindsight and a clear mind, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I love being sober. I love remembering things. I love not having to check my phone in the morning to see what I may have said without meaning to. I love being present. I love experiencing the day without a buffer to my emotions. I might still get a little anxious from time to time, but I know that I’m managing my feelings now rather than just drowning them out with alcohol.

Life isn’t always perfect, but nothing is. Now I know I’m being an authentic version of myself, and I’m capable of more than I ever thought I was.

Sobriety is a gift. I have the same life as I had before, but it’s so much better, because I’m not on the sidelines watching it go by anymore, I’m in it on a daily basis, experiencing all of it.

35 Comments
  1. Feisty52 4 months ago

    So relatable – the anxiety, self doubt, and how writing and quit lit helped. Thank you very much for sharing.

  2. Finallyfreetobeme 5 months ago

    Thank you Claire for sharing your story with us. I can relate to so much of it. I’m 69 days AF and to be honest, it really hasn’t felt like a struggle. I don’t want to lull myself in a false sense of security, but it feels like a switch in my head has been flipped and there is no going back for me. It took my partner walking out on me to realise that I was going to lose everyone and everything if I didn’t get healthy and address the problem. I honestly could not see the person I had become. But slowly it is becoming apparent now. It is something I feel so guilty about, ashamed, disappointed, a failure and yet I know it is the past and I will never let myself go back there. I am fortunate that my partner gave me another chance. But I know I have let people down. And myself. All the while blaming everyone else for my problems. I was spiralling out of control – drinking behaviour becoming more reckless. More anxious. More depressed. I actually found myself thinking that I wanted out and was on the brink of a breakdown. I want to understand WHY. Why did I drink? Why wasn’t it harder for me to stop? I had abused alcohol in different ways and at different times of my life – always an unhealthy relationship with booze following an unhappy childhood being raised by two alcoholic parents. I want to move on, do better and feel better (which I am!) but I also want to understand what’s wrong with me. Not sure I make any sense. But writing helps to clear my head somehow so if anyone is reading, thank you for “listening”.

  3. JB99 5 months ago

    Never read something that so closely resembles my story, now I know what to expect and I am looking forward to being present with my family w/o the filter wine gives. Thank you for being brave enough to share.

  4. zittaa 5 months ago

    Your post was very meaningful. Thanks Claire.

  5. Fish 5 months ago

    Thanks for sharing. I’m on day one.

  6. dorothyparker 5 months ago

    Great read Clare. I concur, I am getting used to feeling my feelings, and trying to “sit with uncomfortable emotions”. I didn’t have a hugely habitual drinking problem but since giving up 800 days ago, the whole way I was drinking was just dumming myself down.
    It seems crazy to me now that I’d deliberately handbrake me career by numbing myself to avoid dealing with conflict or decision making.
    Life these days is so much simpler and more successful. Like you, I’m not perfect, life isn’t perfect, but that’s totally ok.
    Giving up alcohol was such a great decision.
    I’ve never regretted it.

    • dorothyparker 5 months ago

      *my* career

      • ClaireH 5 months ago

        Thanks Dorothy and well done to you! 🙂

  7. seniorbloke 5 months ago

    Good article – bought the book to learn more.

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      Thank you – I hope you enjoy it!

  8. Hammer123 5 months ago

    After about 2 years sober I found a therapist who helped me with some of my issues that were left bare now that they were not diluted by alcohol. Quitting drinking is the first step but there is still work to be done but that work is worth it.
    Thanks for being so honest with your journey.

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      You’re very welcome Hammer123. Well done on your journey! x

  9. SugarBelly 5 months ago

    Great post, Claire. Thank you for sharing.

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      You are very welcome SugarBelly x

  10. Daisy70 5 months ago

    Thank you for sharing. I’m 147 Days sober. Yes it is a gift and a self discovery journey as you say. And I don’t always like what I see, what I discover. And I have to face it. Like you I don’t want to go back. I really have the feeling of living my life, of being present. I drank for most of my adult life and i want the rest of my life to be sober, present… learning and discovering what means living my life. Thank you. Great insight.

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      Daisy, that is wonderful to read! As you know it’s a hard road but you sound like you’re doing fine! Well done, and thank you xx

      • neenybean 5 months ago

        Thank you 🙏 Yes the ‘not having to check my phone’ in the morning scenario is one of the BEST feelings ever! Along with no hangover, being totally present, remembering your kids conversations and my all time fav – being able to be the driver ❤️ Thanks for sharing 😊

  11. loopyjuice 5 months ago

    Thank you for this. This could have been written about me. I feel you – I’m only 4 days sober at this point but I feel like the anxiety is worse than a hangover. And I can’t stop crying – It’s literally ridiculous. I don’t even miss the alcohol, I want to be able to drink again at some point but in moderation, but for me right now it’s more about trying to make this anxiety go away.

    Thank you for sharing

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      Hi Loopyjuice, four days is awesome – well done you. Please just remember, it will get easier. Good luck! xx

  12. Puppy 5 months ago

    Thank you for sharing, very relatable 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      Hi Puppy, thank you! 🙂 x

  13. Maggie73 5 months ago

    Thanks for sharing your story x

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      Hi Maggie, you are so welcome xx

  14. CarolineS 5 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this!
    Your in hindsight clarity and analysis of your behaviour feels very true and honest and not too far from my own; a good realty check to see it analysed and written down by sby else.
    Thank You.

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      Hi Caroline, that’s really kind of you. Thank you xx

  15. Dawn 5 months ago

    Great read! Thanks!

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      Thanks Dawn! x

  16. RB2019 5 months ago

    Thanks for your story! It seems somewhat linked to a new line of reflection lately around how I became so dependant on alcohol – predispositions and genetics notwithstanding. What social and mental skills were (are?) lagging that led me to rely on alcohol for relief?

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      Thanks RB2019 it’s interesting to pick apart, but our brains are so complex aren’t they? Thanks for reading x

  17. Lucy 5 months ago

    Over thinking is something I do a lot of the time, being inside my own head is a struggle but I found walking does clear it.. thank you for sharing x

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      You’re welcome Lucy! xx

  18. annkarels 5 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this. I too am finding that the hard part hasn’t been giving up the wine, but dealing with all the things that are now coming forward: emotions, resentments, grief, anxiety, etc. I had been covering up a lot of stuff for a long time, and now it is presenting itself to be dealt with.

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      It’s a hard journey annkarels, but it is so worth it! Keep doing what you’re doing x

  19. time2test 5 months ago

    Thankyou…

    • ClaireH 5 months ago

      You’re very welcome time2test x

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